Everything Old is New Again: Ruby Redstone
Everything Old is New Again: A conversation series that explores the distinction between reinventing styles from the past instead of simply reproducing them (an endeavor near and dear to everything we design at Larkspur & Hawk), featuring inspiring women with different approaches to breathing new life into vintage and making it feel uniquely modern.
To conclude our series, we spoke with writer and fashion historian Ruby Redstone. Read on to hear Ruby's tried-and-true tips for wearing vintage without looking like you're in costume (hint: the right shoes are critical) and to shop her favorite Larkspur & Hawk pieces.
Tell us about your relationship with the world of vintage.
I have quite an intimate relationship with the world of vintage because I am both a fashion historian and an obsessive vintage shopper. I spend all day looking at and writing about old clothes for a living, and then I spend my free time wearing them! It’s a little bit of a vicious cycle but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I started working in fashion design when I was a teenager, and I quickly realized that my favorite part of the job was actually researching all the vintage items and historical images we would pull for inspiration at the beginning of this season. I also realized at this time that, especially on a teenager’s budget, vintage clothing was the best way to bring the ideas for outfits I had into reality.
Now I’d say that at least three-quarters of my wardrobe is antique, vintage, or secondhand. I don’t follow any sort of trends but I am always collecting Victorian and 1960s pieces and anything even vaguely Rococo-influenced. However, I’m a big softie for any and all of history, and whenever I start a new research project, I end up down a rabbit-hole of wanting something from that period for myself. (A year of writing about the 1930s culminated in me purchasing a floor-length, acid-green 30s gown for a friend’s wedding this summer). I love working with clothing because it means that I can feel close to the people and periods I study on a very intimate level by wearing their garments–it’s a totally different experience from studying political history or even art history!
I love vintage homeware as well, but I’m much more of a novice in that department. I’m starting to delve into the vast world of vintage furniture as I’m moving into my first apartment that isn’t a rental, and I’m both thrilled and daunted. My wardrobe has always been easy because I can pack it up and take it anywhere, but a couch is a different story…
What advice do you have for styling vintage (fashion and/or decor) in a way that makes it look uniquely fresh or modern, i.e. reinventing styles from the past as opposed to simply reproducing or mimicking them (which can feel more like a costume)? Any particular strategies or tips?
I like to mix different periods of history when I style vintage, as opposed to just combining vintage and contemporary pieces. I think one of the coolest things about making an outfit with vintage garments is that a dress from the 1920s can ‘meet’ a blazer from the 1980s and move with you through the present-day world — it’s the story of history played out on your body! Whatever you decide to put together will undoubtedly be unique to your understanding of this history, and it tells a much richer tale than purely recreating a single look from the past.
Also, I always wear contemporary shoes. Unfortunately, vintage shoes tend to be uncomfortable (particularly if they’ve been broken in by someone else’s foot), and I think that a vintage shoe can really gild the lily when it comes to styling and take an outfit into costume-y territory.
Tell us about the vintage wardrobe items you wore in our shoot.
For this shoot, I’m wearing a 1940s slip dress and a 1970s ruffled blouse. The blouse actually has a matching skirt, but certain items are not working on me these days because I am pregnant!
This slip was actually one of the first things I bought for pregnancy because it’s a bias cut, so it has a little bit of give over my growing bump. Also, I couldn’t resist the amazing extra-long blue bows that come down the sides! The blouse (and its skirt counterpart) were actually an emergency purchase I made when I was visiting my grandparents in Oklahoma. We had to attend an impromptu cocktail party with their friends, and I had only packed denim shorts and swimsuits but managed to find this set at the local thrift store. It was a huge hit at the cocktail party because it reminded lots of the attendees of the good old days, which I love. Great vintage pieces are always conversation starters, and I am particularly pleased when they open up an opportunity for someone else to talk about their past.
I’ve paired these two pieces together because they’re both pink, and who doesn’t love a dose of pink in gray winter months?! Also, they both happen to fit me right now. Getting dressed while pregnant is both very simple and very frustrating in that way.
Tell us about the Larkspur & Hawk pieces you chose and the way you styled them.
I love that Larkspur & Hawk uses Georgian foiling techniques, as the Georgian era is a fabulous period in fashion history. Georgian women of high society had impeccable taste in jewelry and didn’t shy away from color and sparkle, which I obviously love. I was immediately drawn to the ‘I Love NY’ earrings partially because I’m a native New Yorker and partially because I adore anything heart-shaped. In the best possible way, these remind me of the clip-on earrings that went with princess dress-up sets from childhood, equal parts adorable and glamorous.
I’ve also added a big pile of necklaces in every shade. In my humble opinion, pretty much every outfit can be improved by the addition of a bunch of different glittery necklaces. It’s so indulgent, but it also feels less fussy to have them all mixed together and interacting! I kind of think necklaces are better when they’re lived-in and a little tangled up. Finally, I added a green Posy ring to serve as a compliment to all the pink that I have on.
What inspires your jewelry style in general?
My mom is 110% my jewelry inspiration. She and I are pretty different when it comes to our taste in clothes, but I’ve completely carbon-copied her jewelry style which means wearing the same combination of relatively simple, super sentimental gold pieces every single day. She gave me my first piece of jewelry when I was five: a little tiny gold ring which she had found in a grocery store when she herself was five!
I literally never remove my jewelry (I’m too forgetful and would immediately lose it), so it’s come to feel like an extension of my body. I’ve been wearing a necklace with my husband’s initial on it since we met. I’ve had some of the same earrings in my ears since I got them pierced, but maybe I shouldn’t admit that… I love that the practice of wearing jewelry and having piercings predates even the history of clothing in most cultures. It’s one of the original methods we have as humans for decorating our bodies, which is so powerful. That being said, I also wear lots of jewels shaped like strawberries and daisies and clowns, so it’s not always that deep.